525 S Beckham Ave
Tyler, TX 75702
I reckon in the past month I’ve received no less than 4 emails from Aussie chefs asking me to hook them up with a BBQ internship in Austin.
Austin. Austin. Austin. It’s all the buzz right now, thanks to places like Franklin, Stiles Switch and John Mueller Meat Co. And also thanks in part to media coverage pointing to the fair capital city as the BBQ hotspot du jour.
Here’s a newsflash for said chefs and other budding aficionados- there exists great BBQ outside of Austin, and it’s been there a while now. Go out and seek something beyond what you find in the first page of google search results for “texas bbq”.
Case in point for life outside of Austin: Stanley’s Famous Pit Bar-B-Q in Tyler, Texas. Not at all a huge secret, really, particularly after making Texas Monthly’s Top 50 list again. And being one of the most noted places in town to eat.
Stanley’s is more than your traditional open-for-lunch-until-sold-out place, they have cleverly expanded to breakfast, lunch and dinner services, function as a stand alone bar and also have live music. I guess in smaller towns it makes sense to diversify.
Lemme tell ya, their menu goes way beyond four meats and three sides. It’s nearly confusing. Breakfast bowls, oatmeal(!) tacos, sandwiches, stuffed potatoes, frito pie, and fish dishes [wtf?!]. My motto? When at barbecue, eat barbecue. Profound, I know.
I ordered the two meat plate with sliced brisket, pulled pork, coleslaw, beans and potato salad.
Before ordering, I had met owner Nick Pencis who warned me that East Texas BBQ was a little different from what I may be used to from Hill Country. As I understand it, traditionally East TX BBQ is served chopped and doused in sauce. Appreciate the warning, but what I was served was pretty much exactly what I would get in Central Texas, perhaps because I ordered sliced?
Speaking of fatty brisket…
What did you look at first? The fat cap or that delightfully rendered fat pooling on the paper? I’ve certainly had paper turn transparent before, but never seen a full grease reservoir before. But all that rendered fat results in brisket which holds it’s shape when sliced, but buckles immediately under gentle pressure from a fork. Or pair of fingers. Yup, this baby was as tender as Elvis cooing in your ear, with a healthy pink smoke ring and a smattering of black bark.
The pulled pork received a similar pink glow from the smoke, while the meat itself was white and milky. Confession: I don’t love pulled pork and given the chance, I’ll usually order an all beef plate. I suspect that I don’t favour it because my first pulled pork experience was with male pig. Did you know that was a thing? Yeah, the females taste way better, and generally most discerning places will insist on serving she-pork because the male testosterone can impart a strong, unappetising smell into the meat known as “boar taint”. Thankfully, Stanley’s pulled pork was untainted (so many puns…leave it alone…).
It’s plain to see by how busy Stanley’s is that they are a local favourite, and that patrons enjoy the menu for more than just BBQ. But if you’re coming here specifically for smoked meats, you won’t be disappointed.